Goal.com Christmas Shopping: Who Should Liverpool Buy?

Will Roy Hodgson be backed by new American owners?
Where to start? Roy Hodgson's Christmas shopping list for Liverpool's new American owners NESV will probably be more ambitious than a toy-deprived six-year-old's.

The question is, how willing is the John W. Henry and Tom Werner-led consortium to take on the role of a jovial, indulgent Santa? The signs, in the short-term at least, are reasonably good for Hodgson, who was given a restrained vote of confidence during a phone-in with fans on Monday.

If the Americans were to go the way of Newcastle United, level on points with Liverpool, and Blackburn Rovers, only a point behind, it would make little sense to perservere with Hodgson with the January sales in sight.

The problem for Hodgson is that his squad does not so much require a little tinkering but a complete overhaul. Were it not for the points-swapping among the elite in the opening half of the season, the top four would be so far out of sight, the Liverpool manager would need a telescope to see them.

In the absence of a chief executive, Liverpool's newly-appointed director of football strategy Damien Comolli will be clocking up the air miles over the next six weeks, trying to seal deals for reinforcements.

Depending on how much money is available - and there have been claims up to £25 million could be in the kitty - up to half a dozen players could be brought in to augment a squad big on numbers but thinly spread in terms of quality.

Comolli is confident that the global recession could mean clubs will be keen to cash in on their prize assets. The Frenchman's stated policy is to scour the market for young talent rather than ready-made - and expensive - proven stars.

How well he combines with Hodgson and NESV over the next six weeks will have a huge bearing on the club's capacity to be anything other than an interesting diversion in the second half of the season.

Goalkeeper

The only area of the Liverpool squad that does not need reinforcing, assuming Pepe Reina maintains his love affair with the Kop by giving the hierarchy the opportunity of another six months to prove they are committed to re-establishing Britain's most successful club as a genuine force. If the Spaniard leaves, Shay Given is a reliable and experienced alternative.

Defence

Where to start? There have been more leaks from the Liverpool defence than the American embassy, particularly on the road, where they have conceded 16 goals in nine away matches in the Premier League. Only Blackpool among the top ten clubs have leaked more.

The injury problems of the brittle Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher's age and the inadequacies of Sotiros Kyrgiakos mean a centre-half is an increasing necessity.

Transfer-listed Newcastle defender Steven Taylor will be available after refusing to sign a new contract at St James' Park.

A potential stellar signing would be Lille centre-back Adil Rami, who would cost around £12m and the 24-year-old fits the bill of being young with potential re-sale value. Other less likely possibilities include Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill, Roma's Philippe Mexes, Manchester City's Joleon Lescott and Preston North End's Sean St Ledger.

An ever more urgent requirement is to refurbish the full-back positions. As revealed by Goal.com UK, Glen Johnson has told friends that he is leaving Liverpool in January to join Inter. After Rod Fanni snubbed the Reds to move to Marseille, Hodgson could move for Zenit's Aleksandr Anyukov although his £18m price tag could prove prohibitive.

The left-back position is also a priority given the struggles of Paul Konchesky. City's Wayne Bridge is available but Comolli prefers Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who has just signed a new five-year contract. It is more likely that Liverpool will tap in to Hodgson's favoured Scandinavian market for FC Copenhagen's Oscar Wendt.

Midfield

Although Lucas and Raul Mereiles have developed an understanding during Steven Gerrard's injury absence, Christian Poulsen has flopped since his summer switch from Juventus and Liverpool are in the market for a midfield anchorman who can adequately replace Javier Mascherano. Rosenborg's Anthony Annan offers the energy and spark Liverpool crave, as does Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra and Renne's Yann M'Villa while West Ham's Scott Parker is a reliable alternative although his age - 29 - does not square with Comolli's policy of buying young talent. Mark van Bommel, likely to be available from Bayern Munich, could be ruled out for the same reason.

The main targets to rectify the creative deficits in Liverpool's midfield are based on the Continent. The Merseysiders have extensively scouted Lille's highly-rated teenager Eden Hazard, who has won the praise of Zinedine Zidane, but his £18m price tag surely rules them out.

Other less expensive options include Sochaux's £4m-rated playmaker Ryad Boudebouz, Wigan Athletic's Charles N'Zogbia and David Bentley, who Tottenham are looking to offload for £8m. Another possibility is City's Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has become an increasingly peripheral figure at Eastlands.

Possibly the most exciting reinforcement available to slot straight in to the team would be Ashley Young, who has told Aston Villa he does not want to discuss a new contract until the end of the season, paving the way for a January move. He would cost a minimum of £15m, though.

Attack

Hodgson has made it clear that he wants to sign one or even two strikers to take the goalscoring burden off Fernando Torres, who, apart from a reminder of his potential greatness with a stunning display against Chelsea, has looked a shadow of his former self in his fourth season on Merseyside.


Deadline day moves for West Ham's Carlton Cole and Tottenham's Roman Pavlyuchenko could be revived, although the arrival of Comolli is likely to herald a more thoughtful and long-term policy. Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez and Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor are other expensive options that would appear to be out of Liverpool's price range.

More realistic is a switch for Ipswich Town's precocious teenager Connor Wickham, who could be available for £8m, or Southampton's hotshot 17-year-old attacker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

If Manchester City or Chelsea make a bid for Torres that Liverpool feel they cannot turn down, possible alternatives include Roma's £17m-rated Mirko Vucinic and Borussia Dortmund's prolific Lucas Barrios.

IN (4): Adil Rami, Ashley Young, Oscar Wendt, Lassana Diarra.

OUT (2): Glen Johnson, Christian Poulsen, Daniel Agger.

Preferred line-up (4-2-3-1):

Reina

      Kelly - Carragher - Rami - Wendt     

Meireles - Diarra  

   Kuyt - Gerrard - Young 

Torres